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Over the decades, I cobbled together a repertoire of drills from various classes in karate, kickboxing, and a bit of boxing (very little). I cycle through them, but sometimes I come across something that seems to be sacrilege.

One such combo is to expand one's stance forward by stepping forward with the front leg and throwing a straight punch. I hesitate to call it a jab because the chin isn't shielded by the shoulder, and boxing drills never have you expand your stance. The follow-up is a reverse punch (again, hesitate to call it a cross), but notably, with the sacrilegious dragging forward of the back foot.

According to any art, that doesn't make sense because you're back foot isn't driving the cross. But sometimes, some moves that don't appear sensible at first do have a reason. For example, from a long-ish stance, you can step the back foot forward by half a step while jabbing, but it's more of a distraction so that you can drive forward a reverse punch from the back leg, which has been brought closer to the target.

Before I discard the dragging forward of the back leg during a cross, I was wondering if there is any situation in which this would be useful? Because of the dragging forward of the back leg, one is in the finishing position of a cross rather than the more extended position of a reverse punch. The follow-up to that is a simultaneous soto-uke (inward parry) and leading foot sweep (and there's more follow-up after that). Perhaps this is in response to an counter-attack. In the same way that one is loaded for a hook after a cross, one is loaded for the soto-uke and sweep after doing sacrilegious dragging forward of the back foot during a cross.

I only described the 1st two components of a longer combo. There's no realistic expectation that these moves will actually ever be executed in this exact sequence, but drilling in such combos does help with transitioning between moves. The leading straight punch and the following sacrilegious cross can be a mixture of high and low.

One use that I mulled over was that the sacrilegious cross baits the opponent's counter-attack and distracts in order to improve the success of the subsequent sweep. It could more of a distraction if a lands, e.g., fazing the opponent to improve prospects of the sweep. Since the back foot is coming forward, you have more range with the sacrilegious cross, which could provide a surprise factor. If you punch through with your body moving forward, it be quite a good fazing, especially with hip rotation.

Of course, one can rationalize weak moves, but it depends on the practicality. One example of a fake that I see as likely is in my third paragraph above (leading jab with a half step forward by the back leg, which better positions you to drive the following reverse punch forward).

Another possible saving grace is if one were to plant the back foot on the ground upon impact of the cross. This assumes that the cross travels forward synchronously with the dragging forward of the back foot. It would have to be quick slide rather than a slow drag.

Afternote

Looks like it's not sacrilege in all circles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiVgEWAdIIA&t=215s

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  • What exactly is it you consider sacrilege? Dragging the back foot forward? Or dragging with a cross?
    – mattm
    Aug 12 at 3:20
  • Dragging the back foot forward while delivering the cross. Aug 12 at 3:34
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My wudang instructor called this "following step" and it's used in advanced taiji, bagua, and hsingyi. Matt M explicates the function well.

Hsingyi is probably most appropriate because it's a pure striking form, but very different from boxing and kickboxing.

But the following step seems like it would be useful, where it can be productively applied, in any system for closing distance after a strike.

Here, the main use, aside from potentially increasing power of the strike, is to close distance for the next strike in the combo.

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    Thanks, DukeZhou. I experimented with it further and decided it is worthwhile retaining this drill. It is a fazing or distracting strike to improve the prospects of success of the follow-up move. In my case, it is an aggressive foot sweep, followed by other strikes. Aug 18 at 4:20
  • @user2153235 Thanks! I'm like 51 now, and my left rotator cuff is all effed up from too much hard striking when younger, so I do mostly Taiji & Liangyi these days. In these forms I've started heavily emphasizing pushing/grappling with powerful foot sweeps from high and mid stances. We also use the arch stomp extensively when advancing with certain fist strikes in the hsingyi I was taught, and there are even a few leg hooks. Some of the best hsingyi guys I know started out in boxing and karate, and then transitioned when they got too old for brute force.
    – DukeZhou
    Aug 30 at 3:54
  • @user2153235 There's one Fu style LiangYi move that might be worth looking at and adapting to your style: "Cat Catches Mouse" (distinct from the jian movement of the same name.) Essentially, it's an "envelopment" technique where, when an opponent is trying to grapple, you "double wipe" both arms under-over-under their arms in a circular motion that becomes a spiral because you're advancing. Their arms become trapped and you've snuck in to set up the leg sweep. Then focus, into the ground, hard or soft, or just to unbalance, then follow-step to set up the classic push, max root, to be gentle.
    – DukeZhou
    Aug 30 at 6:20
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This comes from a boxing perspective...

You state:

"One such combo is to expand one's stance forward by stepping forward with the front leg and throwing a straight punch. I hesitate to call it a jab because the chin isn't shielded by the shoulder, and boxing drills never have you expand your stance. The follow-up is a reverse punch (again, hesitate to call it a cross), but notably, with the sacrilegious dragging forward of the back foot".

In relation to the step forward and jab, your chin (classically at least), will be shielded by your punching shoulder if executed correctly. Your shoulder will be in contact with your jaw. Your chin will be tucked low, greatly reducing the chance of knock-out. You should be able to find heaps of examples on Youtube.

In relation to stance, there is a tendency from many trainers to insist on a classical, narrow stance, and this can arguably have some advantages for the novice. However, if you take the time to watch footage of many of the greatest amateur and professional fighters, you will see that their stance is frequently very wide. A well-rounded boxer has the capacity to vary stance as required, in response to, or to dictate to, the opponent.

To drag your back foot into the cross is indeed sacrilegious. A dragged foot is a useless foot. It will require repositioning to be used to any effect. Whenever you move your rear leg (or front leg), you do so by powering from the ball of your foot in a manner which enables you at any point to plant the toes/ball to enable a sudden change in direction and/or to anchor the punch. An exception might be (if you are orthodox), pivoting off the front foot and sliding the ball of the right foot around to follow, particularly if you are trying to lower your centre of gravity/duck a punch. Remember though that sliding or dragging increases friction and therefore requires more effort to execute at a given speed.

Contrary to your claim, the back foot does drive an (orthodox) right cross. The power comes up from your toes, through rotating hips and shoulders, the arms, into the fist. If this feels wrong to you at the moment, it may be that you are overcommitting with your cross, shifting all your weight onto the front foot. When you do this, you place yourself within range of your opponent whilst simultaneously making it more difficult to retreat. A good opponent will capitalise on this. Whilst such forward commitment does have application in aggressive combinations, a good philosophy to begin with is to maintain a roughly equal weight distribution over both feet most of the time. This provides you with the ability to efficiently attack, counter, retreat and circle at any time. When you execute the right cross, you obtain reach by stepping forward and planting the right foot either just before or at the point of impact (Of course, it is not always appropriate in a fight to step forward. I'm describing a foundational technique. Sometimes you will rotate through a combination from stationary feet, many times it will be inappropriate to throw a right at all).

When you learn how to rotate correctly from a good stance, you achieve a nice, long jab (with simultaneous defensive integrity), and the ability to step into a nice long cross, again, using the shoulder as defence. Whilst you won't always be able to employ such perfect technique in a fight context, being able to maximise your effective range whilst maintaining defensive, balanced posture is critical.

As with many skills, you need to learn the basics before you understand how to break from them. You will have certain attributes that you will eventually want to build on, but do yourself a big favour and lay the foundation first.

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  • Thanks for your explanation, Futilitarian. I think that my question may not have been clear about the fact that the back foot is supposed to drive a cross and a reverse punch. The fact it doesn't when the back foot simultaneously slides forward is why it doesn't initially make sense. I was seeking suggestions on whether it makes sense in some situations. To motivate an answer, I provided an example of fake with a compromised straight punch. Aug 12 at 20:19
  • When I drill in boxing combinations, I don't stray too far from having the feet at their natural distance apart. Jabs and crosses often accompanied by pivoting at the toes. Chin is tucked by the shoulders (or at least I try). I will probably never be advanced enough to improvise in boxing. Aug 12 at 20:19
  • My question is a bit art-agnostic. From your answer, even in boxing, "you obtain reach by stepping forward and planting the right foot either just before or at the point of impact." This sounds like the final paragraph in my posted question, except that the stepping forward is synchronous with a jab while the planting of the back foot is synchronous with the cross. Since I'm not taking a strictly boxing perspective, however, the step might be more pronounced (or not, depending on how best to mold this combo). Hopefully I'm not mangling the understanding of your post too much! Aug 12 at 20:19
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Bagua regularly strikes with the jump step, where you jump forward off the back foot and quickly slide the back foot forward to maintain your basic stance. Strikes can be with either or both hands and are based on whipping power where the momentum of the strike all arrives at the same time. The basic idea is you change distance and add the step momentum to stationary strike body mechanics. As you have guessed, you want a quick slide and a solid stance upon impact.

Here is the basic idea, though in a xingyi context.

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  • Thanks for that. Would you be able to point to a video of this? I'd be curious to see if a one-two combo is the same as the 1st two punches in my sequence. When I expand my stance forward, the leading straight punch lands synchronously with the landing of the lead foot. The cross then starts off as a reverse punch. It's travel is synchronous with the advancement of the back foot to shorten the long stance. The ball of the right foot gets planted just as the cross lands. Since the feet are natural width apart at that point, it becomes more like a cross than a reverse punch. Aug 13 at 18:41
  • @user2153235 Added a xingyi video that is close enough. Not everything is on YouTube.
    – mattm
    Aug 14 at 11:51
  • Thank you for that, mattm. When I visited, the video timer was near the end. I must have viewed this video in the past. There are some common elements between what is shown and the 1-2 step in my question, but also many differences. The ready position has the feet almost together. When stepping forward for a "back" hand punch, the weight is much more on the back leg, at least from some of the slower reps. There seems to be a lot of variation between the reps, depending on the speed with which the drill is demonstrated. When bring the rear leg up, he seems to lean forward in the slower reps. Aug 14 at 19:27
  • One of the biggest differences is that my jab comes during the forward step, immediately followed by a cross as the rear leg come forward (not as close as for Beng Quan). At the 7:48 mark, the narrators says that the impact occurs then the front foot lands. In my 1-2, that only happens for the jab, not the subsequent cross. For this reason, I don't think that the video supports my combo. Aug 14 at 19:28
  • @user2153235 I did not intend this answer to address your specific combination, only the stepping while delivering a rear hand attack. You can also imagine a variation where the upper body rotation is slightly delayed, so that the rear hand lands coinciding with the rear foot.
    – mattm
    Aug 14 at 19:54

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